Intel, Qualcomm Partner on WiGig Interoperability

The two chip makers have been working for months to demonstrate multi-gigabit interoperability between their respective 892.11ad products.


Chip makers Intel and Qualcomm are competitors in a growing number of industry segments, from mobile devices and the Internet of things to—eventually—data center systems.

However, the two companies are partnering to drive interoperability, availability and adoption in the next phase of WiFi wireless connectivity. Engineers with Intel and Qualcomm's Atheros unit have been working together for several months to enable multi-gigabit interoperability between their respective 802.11ad WiGig offerings, which officials hope will accelerate the development of WiGig devices and drive the continued evolution of WiFi.

"Laptops, tablets, smartphones, access points, storage devices, untethered VR [virtual reality] glasses and other 802.11ad WiGig-capable devices offer multi-gigabit speeds, high density, low latency and very high network capacity, as well as empower a new class of applications and services," Yaniv Garty, vice president and general manager of wireless connectivity solutions at Intel, and Tal Tamir, vice president of product management at Qualcomm Atheros, wrote in posts on their respective companies' blogs. "802.11ad will transform the experience of WiFi users, be it in their offices, homes or even in public places. Bringing the vast, new spectrum in 60GHz band to WiFi's fold, 802.11ad will be one of the potent tools to address burgeoning data demand in homes, enterprises and carrier networks."

Intel and Qualcomm were among the founding members of WiGig, which began with the WiGig Alliance, a group that since has been folded into the WiFi Alliance. WiGig offers gigabit speeds, greater range and lower latency than current WiFi standards—including 802.11ac and 802.11n—and tech vendors are beginning to build 802.11ad-capable products.

At the Consumer Electronics Show 2016 last month, a number of routers and notebooks—from vendors like Lenovo, Acer and TP-Link—were introduced, with promises of general availability coming later this year.

According to Intel's Garty and Qualcomm's Tamir, the interoperability work their companies have done will fuel the development of WiGig devices that can communicate and connect at speeds up to 4.6G bps. Engineers from both chip makers conducted tests that touched on a range of use cases and scenarios, including peer-to-peer connections between clients from both Intel and Qualcomm and wireless routers powered by Qualcomm's 802.11ad technology.

"Tests examined various cases and conditions—from device discovery and connection to full-blown data uploads and downloads, streaming and more," the two officials wrote. "As part of the testing, we successfully achieved multi-gigabit real data throughput between our devices."

They are hoping that such interoperability also will help drive the development of an ecosystem of commercial products—including networking, mobile and computing offerings—that include 802.11ad connectivity.

The emerging standard comes as faster connectivity, lower latency and higher capacity in wireless networks come under increasing demand. Everything from 4K displays and the growing number of people with connected devices to the Internet of things (IoT) and cloud computing are driving the need for improved connectivity. In addition, broadband providers are increasingly looking to WiFi to offload traffic. WiGig offers the promise of tri-band—2.4GHz, 5GHz and 60GHz—WiFi networking, which will make it an even more attractive offload option to carriers.